Would it surprise you to know that busy does not equal productive, useful or effective?
A busy lifestyle is something the “modern” world has taught us is normal. Normal does not necessarily mean fun, healthy, or productive. For many of us, it means, health issues, physical and mental exhaustion, and constant overwhelm.
As a kid, I was busy, always on the go. But, eventually, I grew out of that and enjoyed hanging out with a few select friends, always had my nose in a book and played sports when I could.
That all changed in college. Those years were full of busy! Homework, working off-campus as well as on-campus, classes, and more. In my senior year I burned out and I burned out bad. I ended up being short a few credits because I had to drop so many classes. My first job ended up being considered work experience so I could graduate a year later.
You would have thought I would have learned my lesson, but no, I didn’t. I didn’t push quite as hard for a while but I always had a side gig pursuing the idea of self-employment.
Interestingly, it was this pursuit that finally taught me the difference between busyness and effectiveness.
The Lies of Busyness
I remember trying a few different ideas in my pursuit of having my own business. Some were a bit more successful than others. Each attempt kept me busy, but none grew to the level of success I had dreamed of.
Why? Because I was doing the “busy” work of organizing supplies, ideas, paperwork, researching marketing ideas, and more. What I should have been doing was being more productive and proactive in engaging in honest-to-goodness business building activities and connecting with potential clients.
I felt busy and I was with my lists of things I wanted to accomplish. Later I realized I was busy with the wrong kind of work.
The lie of busyness comes in 2 different forms:
- You feel and are busy so you think you are doing it right and that you are making a difference.
- That you must be in constant motion, that is just “how it is” now and you are not normal if your calendar is not scheduled 24/7 365 days a year.
Busyness is Addicting
Speaking from personal experience, I know it is and it’s an addiction that is hard to break. By definition addicting means “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on an addictive substance” (source).
The stress and the adrenaline produced from being constantly busy is quite addicting. The praise and recognition we receive for our busy schedules and long working hours is also addicting.
If we slow down too long we might be missing out, we won’t be like [insert name] or we’re not contributing like we feel we should. It feels like we need to get super active again in order to get those feelings back!
Busyness and Health
Busy can keep us blind to our own physical issues that arise from long-term stress and adrenaline production. Both of which can lead to a wide array of health issues from minor headaches to major immune system issues.
Being busy is also akin to burying your head in the sand. We can get so busy that we don’t see the family we are ignoring, we might lose touch with friends, and work (both paid and volunteer) becomes our main focus (ask me how I know!).
As you can see, long-term busyness is not our friend!
So, How Do We Fight Back Against Busyness?
First, by examining our priorities.
I’m taking a class on restructuring my web design business and the first question the instructor asks, “What do you want out of life? What are your top 3 life priorities?”
It’s easy to just throw out answers, but it bears taking some time to think and reflect on this question. My top 3 are (I did cheat a little and listed 4):
- Family & Friends: Time to spend with them and to be there when they need help.
- Outdoors: Hiking, photography, exploring and re-charging my batteries.
- Faith: Devotions, prayer, church, encouraging others.
- Creativity: Creating for fun and creating for my business.
So if these are my priorities, how is that showing up in my day-to-day. Not all that great, “your schedule reflects your priorities” and right now my schedule is showing a different set of priorities. I’m busy, I work long hours but work has become my top priority and it’s not even in the list above.
This is where we all have to start, by taking a good hard look to see if what we say our priorities are aligns with our calendar and actions. Not sure? Ask your spouse, your kid, or a few friends, I’m sure they could tell you right away.
In future posts, I would like to dive deeper into the idea of fighting back against the lie of busyness. Until then, here are a few resources to check out:
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
- A few Take-A-Break Ideas
- S’more Outdoor podcast by Brett Traudt
- Time – a blog post series by my friend over at TiffanyAOlson.com